Between Life And Two Wheels
Cycling in my 30s
Learning to ride a bicycle is probably something you should learn in your childhood (well, it kind of looks that way). Somehow, I skipped that part, but I did ride a tricycle, and then I had a Gokart, and an airplane with four wheels. So, you could say all the toy vehicles I rode as a child were “balanced”.
Not sure that was an entirely good thing, or maybe it was, or maybe it’s just a matter of how you see things differently as an adult.
When you learn to ride a bicycle as a child, it is 100 percent fun. You still have all your wits about you and you’re not afraid to fall, or bruise yourself. You just want to get up and ride like the wind and you can do it for as long as you can–you have no worries, no bills and life is just a breeze.
But when you’re almost 40, learning to ride a bicycle is kind of a different ball game altogether.
Our street had just been reconstructed after 40 years of pleas to the government. It was a complete overhaul, because the drainage system was also redone. Two days before the road was to be opened to vehicular traffic, the residents decided to celebrate the completion of the road works with bicycle rides, table-tennis, music and drinks.
It was a carnivalesque setting, with bicycles of all sizes and colours riding up and down the street–mostly by the children, but there were a couple of adults.
I watched my children enviously and I looked at myself with pity. How could I not know how to ride a bicycle? Then I wondered, how difficult could it possibly be? I mean, it looked easy enough right?
I was able to get answers to these soon enough. You see, my youngest child was yet to learn to ride and my husband had bought him a bicycle so he could partake in the two-day riding party. I watched him teach him, but then again age was in his favour. But I knew I wanted to ride a bicycle, and I was going to have to learn.
While my son took one full day to learn to ride, it took me about two weeks. My husband was being extra careful with me because I had suffered a knee injury in 2019–my kneecap popped out and I had a partially torn ACL–anterior cruciate ligament–according to the MRI that I did.
I started off just using my legs to propel myself on the bicycle–no pedalling yet (fancy getting tired doing that). Then the next stage was to use my legs to propel myself, then raise them off the floor, while trying to keep the bicycle steady and moving in a straight line.
I think that took me about two days to get right. Note that I still wasn’t making any turns yet. The turns were the last thing I mastered.
And then the most difficult task for me–learning to pedal and keep my balance.
My husband would run along holding the handle bars, then he would let go after a bit. I would allow fear to control the handlebars and just stop.
The first time I was able to pedal for a few metres, I was so thrilled and the feeling I had was one I can’t adequately describe, but I would say it felt like I was flying.
Gradually, I gained more confidence and I was able to stay on the bicycle longer, though I was still weaving.
The other lesson I had to learn was how to look at where I was going and not at the ground.
My husband would tell me while I was riding, “You will end up where your eyes are”.
It took me some time to grasp this, because I was always looking at the ground, but I argued that I was looking at where I was going. I fell off the bicycle a few times, and have the scars to show for it.
The day I finally understood that I had to keep my head up and ahead, I started to ride better and better and better. Cycling was now my new getaway. After hours on the computer, I would just get up and do a couple of laps in the compound and it was a wonderful way of getting some cardio into my day.
As time went on, I needed more distance to cover. We started going to the National Stadium, and that was where my true test began.
I had to learn to ride with lots of other people on the road, jogging, walking and cycling. I was so happy I had learned to ride looking ahead, otherwise I would have been in trouble.
I started off cycling for 45minutes, then pushed it up to 100 plus minutes. One of my Karate Senseis says I should work towards doing 20 laps at the stadium. (A lap comprises cycling from one stadium gate to the other, a distance of about 24km). I ended up being able to do 10 laps.
The journey to strengthening my knee has taken me through various paths of physical training that were out of my comfort zone. Interestingly, the circumstances under which the injury occurred were also because I was also out of my comfort zone–Karate.
Learning to ride in my late 30s has been an exhilarating experience. While cycling, I listen to some of my favourite music, which could either be film scores, hiphop, movie soundtracks or pop music.
Rehabilitating my knee has taught me a few life lessons too.
To move ahead in life, you have to keep your head up, with your eyes fixed on your destination. You will end up where your gaze is set. If it is set in the past, you will be stuck there, if it is set in other people’s lives, you will never truly live yours.